Conmen trio jailed for £85m scam
Three British conmen who left thousands of victims penniless as they frittered stolen money on a private jet, yachts and holiday homes in the Caribbean have been jailed in the United States.
Richard Pope, Paul Gunter and Simon Odoni lived life in the lap of luxury while defrauding at least 2,300 Britons, many of whom lost their entire life savings and one of whom was driven to suicide.
They were jailed at a court in Florida, where Gunter, 64, was sentenced to 25 years and Odoni, 56, to 13 years and four months and Pope, 55, was sentenced to four years and nine months.
Detective Inspector Kerrie Gower said: "Pope, Gunter and Odoni are amongst the most ruthless and destructive criminals the City of London Police have ever dealt with and deserve every day they will spend behind bars in America.
"Unfortunately this sentencing will not repair the huge damage they caused to the lives of thousands of people who were simply looking for a safe place to invest their money, but hopefully it will bring a measure of comfort and a sense of closure to those caught up in what was fraud committed on a truly massive scale."
The 130 million dollar (£85 million) scam, a so-called boiler room fraud where unsuspecting investors hand over cash for worthless shares, was one of the biggest of its kind ever uncovered in the UK.
A total of seven defendants were charged in March 2009, and two years later Pope, originally from St Albans, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Gunter, from London, and Odoni, also from St Albans, stood trial in March this year, forcing three British victims to fly from the UK to Florida to face them in court. Another three were too ill to travel but gave evidence in the UK and the video footage was played as part of the trial. Gunter and Odoni were found guilty in May.
Ms Gower said that the trio milked as much money as they could to fund their lifestyle partying on yachts, driving sports cars including a Ferrari and travelling in a private jet.
"These were arrogant criminals who were just ripping off UK investors," she said. "Taking as much as they could from them and having criminal lifestyles, lavish lifestlyes, whereby they were purchasing boats, a plane and high value vehicles. We have 26 properties down in relation to Paul Gunter alone."